The Corridor, a single-act opera based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, relates the moment Orpheus disobeys the gods by looking back at his wife, thus condemning her to stay in the underworld forever. The scene opens with Orpheus (Harry O’Neill) dragging Eurydice (Hannah McDermott) through the corridor, while she looks downcast and reluctant. The lovers start to quarrel, and then at a crucial moment, Orpheus turns his head and the couple stare at each other for several long seconds. Their silence is accompanied by the sounds of the harp, before a frenzy ensemble of flute, clarinet, viola and cello starts to resound.
The story revolves around the timeless classical themes of death and passion. This production, however, affords them a fresh perspective. Instead of depicting the demigod’s grief at losing the woman he loves, instead it focuses on the heroine’s psychological tensions. Does she even wish to leave the Underworld, or is it a single-sided wish of her husband? With a mixture of singing and speaking, Hannah McDermott gives a wonderful rendition of an anguished and unwilling Eurydice with her soprano voice. Through a passionate exchange, ‘What do you see? Why look back now? What do you hear? Why listen now?’, the strong female voice protests against male domination, whilst simultaneously the dead refuses to have the will of the living imposed on her.
The dimly-lit ambience of New College Chapel is very suited to the sinister atmosphere of the opera. In the pre-set, the sinewy music echoing from the walls plunges us into a tenebrous universe bordering on the edge of life. The blue lighting projected from the saints and the incandescent lights from the sides cast Orpheus and Eurydice as shadowy presences, fitting the mythological overtones of the story. The fact that the lighting turns red by the end seems to signify a irrevocable destiny, a devastating grievance. The members of the orchestra and the audience are portrayed as shades too, whom Eurydice frequently addresses and exudes her protests.
Overall, it is a feminist adaptation of the timely Greek myth, leading us to re-examine the overlooked perspectives of a story while warning us against the magical reversal of the cycle of nature. The setting creates the ideal location for the unfolding of the drama, while the vehement exchange between the soprano and the tenor deliver the protagonists’ struggle with their personal identities.